The saying "a dog's mouth is cleaner than a human's mouth" has been around for a long time, but is it true? Today, our Pico Rivera vets tackle this age-old question.

Is a Dog's Mouth Cleaner Than a Human's?

Comparing the mouths of a dog and a human is like comparing apples and oranges. While there is some overlap in the types of bacteria found in different species, dogs' mouths contain a variety of dental bacteria that you will not find in yours. Dog mouths contain approximately 600 different germ species, compared to 615 and counting varieties in human mouths.

So in short, the answer is no.

However, there are similarities. Porphyromonas, for example, is a bacterial family that causes periodontal disease in both canines and humans. Billions of germs slowly accumulate on the surface of the teeth, causing bad breath, gum recession, tooth root abscesses, and bone damage around the tooth roots.

Early stages of periodontal disease are treatable in both dogs and humans with at-home dental care, and dogs, like humans, require professional cleaning regularly.

Can You Get Infections and Diseases From Dog Saliva?

The likelihood of germs being transmitted to humans via a dog's saliva is extremely low. It does, however, have a chance of happening. Dogs can spread bacterial and viral illnesses through their saliva. These can be transmitted if a dog bites you or if saliva enters your nose, mouth, or eyes.

Bacterial Infections

A dog bite can transmit the bacteria Capnocytophaga canimorsus through the bite wound, resulting in a serious bacterial infection in humans. Another, Pasteurella canis, is the most common bacteria found in a dog's mouth; it is also the most common organism found in a person who has been bitten by a dog. The severity of a dog bite wound is determined by the location of the wound and whether the person is immunocompromised or vulnerable in some other way.

If you have been bitten by a dog, thoroughly clean the wound with soap and water for 15 minutes before seeking medical attention. If your dog consumes Salmonella or E. coli-contaminated food, these pathogens may be transmitted to you if your dog's slobber enters your mouth. Although a raw food diet is more susceptible to contamination, any dog food can become contaminated.


Rabies is the most serious infection that dogs can transmit through their saliva. When a dog bites someone, the virus spreads. The virus enters the nervous system and causes a variety of symptoms. Initially, dogs may experience anxiety and nervousness. In later stages, dogs become aggressive, uncoordinated, and disoriented.

If you see a dog (or wild animal) exhibiting these symptoms, contact your local animal control or police department and keep your distance. When a dog, person, or wild animal develops symptoms of rabies, it is almost always fatal.

Is it bad if your dog licks you then?

Because your skin absorbs saliva poorly, a dog licking your skin poses little risk of infection (as long as they are not licking a wound). Your skin may develop hives, a rash, and/or become extremely itchy if you are allergic to dog saliva.

How to Clean a Dog's Mouth

Proper dog dental care, and learning how to clean your dog's teeth, are essential in making sure your dog's mouth is as clean and safe as possible. One of the easiest ways to do this is to bring your dog in for a dental appointment. We recommend at least once a year or more if your dog is suffering from some sort of dental disease (like periodontitis).

When you bring your dog to Pico Rivera Animal Hospital for a dental checkup our vets will perform a full oral examination for your pooch and check for signs of dental issues, such as:

  • Extra teeth or retained baby teeth
  • Bleeding around the mouth
  • Swelling or pain in or around the mouth
  • Plaque or tartar buildup on teeth
  • Discolored teeth
  • Loose or broken teeth
  • Bad breath

Oral health problems can become severe if left untreated, causing your pet a great deal of pain and discomfort. If you notice signs of periodontal disease in your pet, such as decreased appetite (which can indicate tooth pain), abnormal chewing, drooling, dropping food from the mouth, bad breath, or other symptoms, contact your veterinarian immediately to schedule a dental appointment.

We clean and polish your dog's teeth thoroughly, both above and below the gum line. We probe and x-ray the teeth, then use a fluoride treatment before applying a dental sealant to help prevent future decay and damage. If your dog has advanced periodontal disease, we will collaborate with you to create a treatment plan to help restore its mouth to a pain-free and healthy state.

Should I Brush My Dog's Teeth?

As a pet owner, you play an important role in assisting your dog in fighting dental disease. Here are a few simple ways you can help keep your dog's mouth healthy and clean his teeth:
  • Brush your pet's teeth once a day with a vet's finger brush or a child's toothbrush to remove any plaque or debris. It's as simple as brushing your teeth. If your dog is resistant to having his or her teeth cleaned, try some doggie toothpaste in flavors your dog will enjoy. This canine toothpaste can turn a chore into a treat.
  • Use a plaque prevention product (your vet can recommend some), which you can apply to your pet’s teeth and gums. These products act as a barrier to prevent plaque buildup.
  • Offer your pup treats such as dental chews or food designed to help prevent plaque buildup and tartar.

Dental care is an important part of your pet's overall health. Be sure to book your pet's annual dental appointment today, your dog will thank you. 

Note: The advice provided in this post is intended for informational purposes and does not constitute medical advice regarding pets. For an accurate diagnosis of your pet's condition, please make an appointment with your vet.

Is it time for your pup's annual dental cleaning? Contact Pico Rivera Animal Hospital to book an appointment to get your dog's mouth as clean as it should be!